Health leaders issued Covid-19 warning and offer advice to young people amid high infection rate in Cambridge region
Health authorities and community leaders in Cambridge have issued warnings over the relatively low take-up of Covid-19 vaccinations as the Delta variant of the virus continues to spread fast.
They also reminded those who have had their jabs that the virus still represents a major threat and precautions are necessary.
It follows analysis by the Cambridge Independent that showed for the week to August 12, Cambridge was the worst off out of all 347 local authority areas in England and Scotland when the figures for vaccination take-up and infection levels were combined.
There is growing disquiet among medics that the relaxation of all restrictions has led to spiralling transmission, adding pressure to hospitals that are also facing growing demands in A&E and other areas.
Prof Ravi Gupta, professor of clinical microbiology in the Department of Medicine at the University of Cambridge, warned: “The August lull normally allows NHS staff to recharge before the autumn and winter. We are currently near winter levels of activity.”
Public Health England data suggests only half (50.3 per cent) of over-18s in Cambridge have had both their Covid-19 jabs as of Wednesday, August 18. While uncertainty about Cambridge’s true population number means this may be a slight underestimate, health authorities are concerned that the city’s take-up is well below the national average of 75.2 per cent, and even further below that of neighbouring South Cambridgeshire, where more than three-quarters (76.3 per cent) have had both doses.
Jyoti Atri, director of public health for Cambridgeshire County Council, urged young people not to ignore the warning signs.
“While the risk of getting seriously ill is lower among the under-30s, it is becoming increasingly clear that individuals who are unvaccinated and catch the virus are more likely to pass it on to others, including those who are more vulnerable,” she said.
“So it remains crucial to get vaccinated. There are a number of walk-in clinics where you can get a jab and it’s just an eight-week gap before you can get a second dose.
“But remember that you can still catch the virus if you have been vaccinated, so please continue to wear a mask and take necessary precautions, limiting contact with people who are extremely vulnerable.”
Latest data shows 458 cases in a week in Cambridge. This is down slightly on early August, but with schools due to return soon – and many without good ventilation in place – there is concern the rate could rise again. All other districts in the county have experienced rising infection numbers.
Cllr Lewis Herbert, leader of Cambridge City Council, told the Cambridge Independent: “It really worries me, given the major risks ahead in autumn, that Cambridge case levels continue to be unacceptably high, along with local vaccination rates still being too low, despite Herculean efforts by our local NHS team. It’s all made far worse with the Delta variant being doubly transmissible compared to the original 2019 one.
“First, the simple central message is that every one of us over 16 needs to get our jab and then our second one eight weeks later. Please talk carefully to any family member over 16 to get theirs, because it’s now so easy for us all. Particularly persuade any over-30s you know still to get their jabs, as people their age are still dying from Covid in the East of England.
“Second, we have to get Cambridge cases down below 300 this month, then under 200 in September. Otherwise, cases risk spiralling after term starts because social mixing among under-21s will more than double then.
“Please meet outdoors for any larger group. An anorak is a far better option to the high risk from larger numbers indoors. And keep wearing face coverings everywhere you should.
That way we’ll help avoid repeatedly interrupted schooling and working weeks next term and avoid the ridiculous levels of interrupted school weeks of last term.”
Schools will no longer have to form bubbles, and start and finish times will no longer be staggered, when they return in September.
The county council urged over 16s and those aged 12-15 eligible due to underlying health risks to get a jab, and reminded young people of the importance of regular hand-washing and respiratory hygiene routines.
It encouraged young people to meet outside, to ventilate indoor spaces well and to be cautious when visiting vulnerable people.
Secondary school students and further education college students will be required to take two on-site lateral flow tests three to five days apart at the start of term, followed by twice weekly home testing. This will be reviewed at the end of September.
Cllr Bryony Goodliffe, chair of Cambridgeshire County Council’s Children and Young People’s Committee, said: “Being out of education can cause significant harm to educational attainment, life chances and mental and physical health. It is right that schools have been able to open up and relax their rules, but it is still essential that everyone continues to be sensible and vigilant. The pandemic has not gone away, and it is vital that young people all continue to test regularly and get vaccinated if they haven’t already done so.”
The council warned that winter could see a further resurgence of Covid-19, compounded by seasonal respiratory diseases, such as flu and the winter vomiting bug.